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Kingerski: Penguins, Malkin Deal Caves to Emotion; Cap Ramifications of 4th Year

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The Pittsburgh Penguins’ core, with Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby, will ride together until the end. Despite the seeming acrimony and building apprehension of parting, neither the Penguins nor Evgeni Malkin wanted to live without the other. After the “he said” vs. “he said” conflicting reports between the Penguins management and Malkin’s camp about offering the fourth year earlier on Tuesday, the fourth did hit the table, and Malkin signed.

Four years. $24.4 million. $6.1 million salary-cap hit.

Evgeni Malkin contract story.

“Evgeni is a generational talent who will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NHL history,” Hextall said. “His hockey resume and individual accomplishments speak volumes about him as a player, and we are thrilled to watch him continue his remarkable legacy in Pittsburgh.”

The Penguins now have about $3.4 million to spend, but Kasperi Kapanen’s new contract will eat into that or swallow it entirely.

To some surprise, Crosby now has the shortest commitment remaining among the three. Prepare yourself for silly headlines in 2025 as Crosby’s deal expires.

But as hockey writers scrambled to laptops to scribble the Malkin story after the late-night email, another realization hit: Malkin was just 13 hours from unrestricted free agency.

If he didn’t like the four-year, $6.1 million offer, he could have tested the waters at noon on Wednesday.

If the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t like the fourth year, they were not forced to offer it and could have chased Vincent Trocheck or others at noon.

In the end, the abyss was too scary for both. The Penguins and GM Ron Hextall did something they shouldn’t have, and Malkin accepted less than he probably thinks he’s worth. They both succumbed to fear.

The Penguins were justifiably afraid they could not adequately replace Malkin for the coming season and would be forced into a longer-term deal with a lesser center. Or worse, the Penguins could have missed the top couple of targets (Trocheck, Nazem Kadri) and been sifting through Dylan Strome, Ryan Strome, and Andrew Copp as Malkin replacements.

And so, on the eve of free agency, with all eyes upon them, both sides thought better of hitting the market. We’ll never know which teams would have aggressively chased Malkin or who the Penguins would have signed.

Evgeni Malkin 35+

Noted Toronto Maple Leafs Blog PensionPlanPuppets had a thorough breakdown of the new 35+ rules and exemptions. From the 2020-21 CBA agreement:

Because Malkin’s contract has a $4 million signing bonus in Year One and a $1 million signing bonus in Year Four, the contract qualifies as a dreaded 35+ contract. The front-loaded formula also qualifies.

Players on ordinary deals can retire, and the cap hit disappears. Teams which sign players to a contract when they’re 35 years old or older are subject to increased scrutiny. If Malkin does not fill the remainder of the deal, that fourth-year signing bonus makes his contract a 35+.

That means Malkin’s cap hit doesn’t come off the books if he retires. The Penguins will have to place him on LTIR which, given the state of his knee, seems plausible. However, suppose Malkin was able to pass a physical. In that case, the Penguins could theoretically get socked with the total cap hit and no relief (however, the NHL’s enforcement is both vague and soft).

The Penguins’ core will stick together through the end. It’s what they wanted, and on some level, many of us wanted, too. Was anyone anxious to hear the reaction at PPG Paints Arena if Malkin or Kris Letang returned in a rival sweater? Ponder great legacies in the face of a #71 Rangers jersey, or read stories of empty plane seats, such as when Marc-Andre Fleury kept an open seat beside him on the Vegas charters in honor of longtime seatmate Sidney Crosby?

It also means the Pittsburgh Penguins could regret this deal in several years, shoving the team into a rebuild because they lack the salary cap space to ice a competitive team.

The view from this keyboard is that the Penguins would have won the stare-down and could have avoided the fourth year, including the costly signing bonus. We will never know if that opinion is correct, but I’m willing to bet there will be a lot of second-guessing and complaining in a few years, too.

As we wrote on Sunday, emotion creates regret. It seems both sides caved to emotion on this one.

Instead, there is justice in Malkin and Letang re-signing. Both left money on the table in previous contracts, and players across the league will recognize the Penguins paid up.

Of course, one more good playoff run or a couple of series wins, and much will be forgiven, too.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Dave Heyl
26 days ago

How motivated will Malkin be @ $6.1 VS $9.5 to make any changes to his game. SOP = same old Pens!

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

Or how many games will he play this year to even earn that salary.

David
David
26 days ago

I’m good with the deal — it is a fair deal — it only seems like too much $ and term because the Pens are pressed on salary cap. But they need to win NOW — within a couple of years — or it will be a long time. A rebuild is out there either way. So take this shot and let the core all retire about the same time.

mwil1226
mwil1226
25 days ago
Reply to  David

If you’re still in the win now mode why do you sign Malkin. This locks the Pens into
mediocrity for the next 3 to 5 years. They couldn’t get out of the 1st round for the
last 4 years with younger versions of Letang and Malkin now they ate up enough
cap that the entire team will be affected. The Pen’s gave this core shot for the last
four years and it was time to move on – this just sets the organization back from the
inevitable re-build. Hope everyone is ready and gearing up for some bad Hockey.

Knobman
Knobman
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

Agree. Hextall took the easy way out and caved by signing Malkin. He had cap space to work with and had a chance to make changes that would have made the team competitive and balanced now and halted the dreaded rebuild in a few years. The window for another cup is shut and we can look forward to more first round exits before the tear-down.

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  Knobman

Maybe they can bring back the “We Are Family” Song like the Pirates used back in the late 70’s but for a different reason.

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

Exactly but as long as the core/family is happy and making their millions. So let’s see them show their appreciation for the hard working fans who still support them in this downward economy and go more than a first or second round playoff scenario. As far as another Stanley Cup is concerned its a tough road for this team as other teams who are younger and better now improve their teams even more.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

Shocked your tweet wasn’t blocked. You’re not happy and know the teams done.

dcm8299
dcm8299
26 days ago

Geno is not deaf, blind or stupid!! While I’m sure he sees and appreciates all the adoration from PENS fans, I’m quite certain he also reads and hears all the talk about him being a washed up, over the hill, lazy, error and injury prone 36 yr. old shadow of GENO!! It’ll be interesting to see what a TRUE OFFSEASON training regimen on a solid reconstructed knee (ACL) will do for his game. Added to that, a new career ending contract finishing where and with whom me started . In addition, the NEED TO PROVE THAT HE’S STILL A GREAT… Read more »

Pete
Pete
25 days ago
Reply to  dcm8299

Or he could just turn the puck over and continue to ignore D and continue to be a minus player 5 V 5. What is the over/under on games played by 71? Maybe 50?

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
26 days ago

Guerin has done a pretty good job managing that cap situation with dead money, so it can be done if this doesnt work out. 58s contract is just as risky.

Knobman
Knobman
25 days ago
Reply to  Rich Filardi

It still upsets me that Rutherford signed his extension with the Pens after he said that he was retiring or moving up with the organization. We could have had Guerin as GM for the last several years.

Paul
Paul
25 days ago
Reply to  Knobman

I don’t blame Rutherford. I blame the puckheads who gave him the chance to sign an extension. Just shows that brains are not a requirement for financial wealth.

Rob
Rob
26 days ago

6.1 mil for your 2c and 1d. No other team can say that, i believe. That is the bottom line here. Fans were probably the ones feeling the most emotions. I went from scared that Carter would be the 2c, to sad Malkin was leaving, then acceptance that he was going to leave, and finally joy that he is staying!

mwil1226
mwil1226
25 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Rob – that’s because their both 36 years old and Malkin hasn’t seen a full season
in 3 years. Think about this Letang had a career year and Malkin came back from
his injury to average a point a game and we couldn’t get out of the 1st round of the
playoffs. You really think either can play better “NOT” theirs a much better chance
they’ll both regress. This isn’t good for the future of Penguins Hockey.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

It was definitely Malkins fault there were a couple covid shortened seasons. Get real. Who REALISTICALLY could the penguins have gotten to replace his point per game? Saving money is saving money. Moving the players off the team that aren’t playing well is the better move. That is the hard part of Hextalls job. Lets see if he can do it!!!

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

Very accurate unfortunately. Never come close again. Malkin will play at least 40 games.

David
David
26 days ago

The Pens kept Malkin, Letang, Rust, DeSmith, and Rakell. Only weeks ago this was said to be impossible. Well, there it is — and IMO it is good news.

mwil1226
mwil1226
25 days ago
Reply to  David

Well the good news is they kept Rust and Rakell – the bad news is they’ll have a hard
time filling out their lineup. Long season ahead or should I say season’s ahead?

Paul
Paul
25 days ago
Reply to  David

No, it’s great news for the rest of the division.

ThePenguin71
ThePenguin71
26 days ago

The reality is that they were not going to replace him with anyone better, and the replacement would have cost much more money per year. The organization went too far on term, but the real loss is time. If this was always going to be the outcome, the front office wasted a lot of time that could have been spent singularly focused on moves to clear cap space. They will make deals to dump salary, and I suspect that they would not have given Malkin his deal without a deal to dump salary already in place. This was also about… Read more »

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  ThePenguin71

Yeah but someone who would have a better chance to play a full season unlike Mr Half Season! So long Stanley Cup!

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  Bob

You negatives will be the first to complain if he goes on the shelf again.

mwil1226
mwil1226
25 days ago
Reply to  ThePenguin71

Disagree – for that number you could sign or trade for a quality #2 Center who would be younger and able to perform for the duration of his contract. Malkin on the other hand hasn’t made any of the necessary changes to his game that’s required when aging.

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

Exactly and maybe someone who has the desire to win the cup who never has vs one who’s already won more than one cup.

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  ThePenguin71

The only problem how many games will Malkin play to boost ticket sales. How many has he already disappointed the last 3 years only playing 1 1/2 of it?

Kris
Kris
26 days ago

So Geno pouted and said he was going to free agency. Then his agent called around to see what might out there and then Geno signs. Hmmm. Guess he got what the NHL community felt he was worth.

AnthonyB
AnthonyB
26 days ago
Reply to  Kris

He would have EASILY got north of 7 mil on the market. 6.1 is a bargain.

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  Kris

That is if he can play the majority of the season and actually pick up his game if Sid is out of the line-up which we didn’t see in the Ranger series.

Frank
Frank
26 days ago

Maybe in its simplest terms is that when you balanced the negatives and positives of signing Malkin or leaving him go they largely neutralized each other. And in the event of a tie the decision goes to a generational HOF player. The absolutely huge unknown is how healthy he can stay. Yup . .. anytime he is hit or takes a spill we will wonder how healthy he is going to be when he gets back up. On the other hand how far is Crosby from that same status and I do not see any clamoring to send him on… Read more »

mwil1226
mwil1226
25 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Frank – agree but I wouldn’t compare Crosby and Malkin especially in terms of work ethic and taking care of your body. Crosby’s a machine – his off-season workouts are off the chain ridiculous – he’ll be putting up 70 or 80 points when he’s 40.

Frank
Frank
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

Well from your lips to Gods ears but only one player has scored more than 70
Points at age 40 over the last 45 years. Maybe Sid is the second but there is a big difference to go from age 25 to 30 vs 35 to 40. Crossing my fingers but time takes no prisoners.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

Can’t compare them physically. I’ve met them. Malkin 3 years ago was like 20 something percent body shape. Toothbrush probably the only thing able to handle. Crosby not very tall but big thighs and legs. Solid build. Great personality too.

Jstripsky
Jstripsky
26 days ago

I think the Rakell signing less than an hour after word went out that Malkin would test free agency was a brilliant move. We’ve made our last best offer and are moving forward. I wonder if there was any other communication like “Once free agency starts, the 4th year is off the table.”

shakham
shakham
25 days ago
Reply to  Jstripsky

I think it was more about putting egos aside, and just trying to work something out without the threats.

I believe Crosby was also in the middle of the conversation, so this was very personal to everybody involved.

ABS
ABS
26 days ago

Dan, What does the Letang contract look like in the same terms of the 35+ factors?

ric jefferies
ric jefferies
26 days ago

At some point in time(hopefully) someone in the Pens organization will realize that “we cant get there from here” meaning keep the same crew, coaching, etc and expect different outcomes. Change is inevitable, either forced upon or voluntary, its how the change is made that determines success or failure in transition. Truthfully at this point I really don’t care about the Pens making the playoff, I just want to watch good hockey with Penguin uniforms on the ice….

mwil1226
mwil1226
25 days ago
Reply to  ric jefferies

Agree – Hextall avoided making the hard but right call with both Malkin and Letang. This could very well cost him his job. He made the popular move to bring them both back but
a horrible business decision that will restrict this team from contending for at least the next 5 to 6 years. Sad day for Penguin hockey.

Romike
Romike
25 days ago
Reply to  mwil1226

I’m a facts over feelings guy. IMO the organization just publicly declared that selling jerseys is more important than winning the Cup. They’ve thrown in the towel and said the next 3-4 years are about winning enough regular season games to sell tickets and profit off the “core” while they can. Then rebuild. There’s no other reasonable conclusion. This is not a “win now” team. An older, and thus slower version of the same team that’s been ousted in the first round for 4 years will not suddenly be a legit competitor. 2022 Malkin is not magically going to transform… Read more »

AnthonyB
AnthonyB
25 days ago

Caving to Emotions? What star player would sign for next to nothing on the last year of a contract? 6.1 is a good compromise, it’s not like he fleeced the pens the way ovi did to the crapitals. After all its 3.4 mil less. I mean really who is as good at their end years as their prime? None of us lol. It’s a great contract. Would 8 mil x2 and 4×2 sound better?

Bob
Bob
25 days ago
Reply to  AnthonyB

Yeah but are we going to get 6 million worth these next 4 years which I doubt like the last 3 years at 9.5 million.

mwil1226
mwil1226
25 days ago
Reply to  AnthonyB

The difference is Ovi show’s no signs of slowing down. Geno has already started
his decent. I would pay a guy 9.5 mil that’s scoring 50 goals and putting up 90 points
at the ripe age of 36. Ovi will turn 37 prior to the start of this season and is still going
strong. You’re comparing apples and oranges. If it was Crosby we were talking about
the term wouldn’t be an issue.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
25 days ago

The third and fourth lines are nowhere near as good as they were in the last Cup runs, nor were the goalies in the last two series. However, it’s much more fashionable in this town to blame everything on Geno.

Paul
Paul
25 days ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

Because the Turnover Machino is a big part of the problem, that’s way.

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
25 days ago
Reply to  Paul

nice one

Lars Nelson
Lars Nelson
25 days ago

The comments here are terrible for the most part. Our top players were not the problem. Malkin did great in the playoffs. Our goalies were terrible or injured, but they are good enough to win the cup. We need to make moves that can better our team and we have the ability to do that this year and next year with a lot of cap space being available then, too. No GM could have done better and no players were more desirable at those cap hits. Imagine if we could trade out Zucker and get TJ Miller for the same… Read more »

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
25 days ago
Reply to  Lars Nelson

welcome to the interwebs

Paul
Paul
25 days ago

Same (very) old Penguins. HexBurke deserve an F- for their acute lack of creativity and vision and overly long contract terms that mortgage the future of the franchise. Doesn’t bother me, though. My Avalanche and Maple Leafs (with a two-time Stanley Cup champion in goal) will still be in the hunt by the time the Pens hit the fairways again. #WastedOpportunity

Last edited 25 days ago by Paul
Mel
Mel
25 days ago

Dan Kingerski has no clue what he is talking about. He has never played a day of his life on the ice and when he did on the gym class basketball floor in highschool he thought he was playing crabsoccer.

Robert Hamilton
Robert Hamilton
25 days ago

You realize letang is also 35 and they signed him to 6 years right? He’s also missed lots of time with injuries.

trackback

[…] Malkin decided to stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins after all. […]

Keith Thomas
Keith Thomas
24 days ago

Excellent Article Dan. What I would like to know is what are the implications of giving a player a signing bounus as opposed to just straight salary. I know they would get a bonus in one lump sum but what about tax implications? It seems as if the Pens could have avoided this whole 35+ issue if they had structured the deal to not be 35+ with the bonus vs salary issue. Perhaps that was one of the snags…… not just the 4th year?

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